David Littleproud

1. While it may not yet be safe to say the drought has been broken in the Central West, we have had plenty of rain. However, we have just come out of an unprecedented 10-year drought. What are you and your party willing to commit to that will ensure water security for western graziers?

The $100 million On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme is available to farmers in the Central West. It will help farmers install infrastructure like pumps, tanks, dams, and bores through a rebate of up to 25 per cent on eligible projects up to the value of $25,000. The rebates have recently been extended to 2022-23.

The Coalition Government will also deliver the $7.4 billion water infrastructure plan for new and expanded dam projects. Since 2013, the Government has commenced 156 projects – worth $1.6 billion – across Australia. $2 million is for the North and South Burnett Water Infrastructure Feasibility Study.

2. A new local Agtech business in the name of OPS is starting to become the pride of the town. Agtech is quickly becoming a booming industry, what is your plan of action to help build innovation in the regions?

It was great to meet with Andrew Barton of OPS Australia when I was in Longreach towards the end of last year to discuss the future of their agtech and data analytics company and their needs for greater expansion across Western Queensland.

The Coalition Government will implement the Digital Foundations for Agriculture Strategy, investing $30 million to establish a new National Centre for Digital Agriculture in regional Australia, and put digital officers in the eight regional Innovation Hubs to boost digital technology uptake.

The $86 million Innovation Hubs provide practical advice and support to farmers on the adoption of innovative practices, including managing drought. The Southern QLD/ Northern NSW Hub has six additional ‘shop fronts’ including Longreach and Roma. Adoption officers will be placed in the Hubs to assist with the latest in drought innovation and technology.

3. While many central west graziers do stock cattle, sheep and wool is a large part of our history and culture. The Queensland Labor State Government has committed to the Sheep and Goat Meat Strategy. What are your plans to support what was once the country’s backbone?

The Coalition Government will deliver the $2.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy by prioritising the food and beverages and deliver the $2 billion Regional Accelerator Program, including $500 million for regional manufacturing.

We will bring young Australians back to farming by piloting an 18-month, $75 million Future Farmer Guarantee Scheme to support farmers into first-time ownership.

Our Government will also expand the Australian Agriculture Visa Program building on our bilateral agreement with Vietnam which is open to skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers and provides a pathway for permanent residency. We are investing around $60 million in workforce measures to secure the workforce.

4. With recent rains local grazier have ended agistment and financially will be looking strong for some time. How will you and your party look to take advantage of this moment in time for local farmers?

It’s important that farmers across the region have access to cheap capital and new technologies to make the most of times while they’re good. The Regional Investment Corporation offers loans up to $2m at concessional rates for farm businesses looking to strengthen their business, access new markets interstate or even internationally, or recover from drought.

Adoption officers have been placed strategically across the nation, including here in Maranoa, to engage with farmers to assist with the uptake of new practices and technologies, provide feedback to the Hubs on what farmers want, and support farmers to use tools developed by the Future Drought Fund, such as Climate Services for Agriculture. This means farmers and farm businesses can easily access new tech to try and maximise their farmgate returns.

And our Government’s instant asset write-off is available to 30 June 2023, meaning that businesses can instantly write off the cost of purchasing new items, which further helps farmers grow their businesses.

5. Any last thoughts on the future for central west agriculture?

We are the first government to truly recognise that drought is an enduring feature of our landscape and put a concrete, long-term fund in place to look after farmers and regional communities into the future. The $5 billion Future Drought Fund (FDF) provides secure, continuous funding for drought resilience initiatives. Money is rolling out the door now to ensure we’re ready for the next drought, with programs in place to help farmers achieve better risk management, access more useful climate and planning information, trial new land management practices, and drive the adoption of new drought resilience technologies.

Initiatives like the recent Drought Resilience Forum in Longreach and the Drought Resilience Leaders Program are supporting Central West peer-to-peer networks and knowledge sharing.

The future of Ag in our region, and across the nation, is bright and I look forward to continuing to support the industry’s growth in the months and years ahead. Only the Coalition Government has a vision for regional Australia, and I’m proud to be part of a team that is delivering on this vision.